Showing posts from 2008

Turn off Windows Update service to save RAM and avoid error 0x8DDD0018

The Windows update service takes about 10MB of RAM, but is used about once every month.
What a waste, espcially if running on a Netbook or low-end laptop where RAM is at a premium.

It's easy to turn off the service using the Services.msc tool, but then for some reason the Windows Updates website doesn't know how to turn it back on as needed. Instead, you need a batch file which starts up the service and then shuts it down as soon as the update is over. Likewise, the BITS service is only used by Windows Update, so it too can be enabled just as needed. The problem I ran into, however, is that even when Windows Update service is running Windows update may not be able to detect it, and will return an erronous 0x8DDD0018 error. This is solved by running regsvr32.exe wuaueng.dll.

The final batch file is as follows:

net start wuauserv
regsvr32.exe wuaueng.dll /s
net start BITS

start /wait iexplore

net stop wuauserv
net stop BITS

How to import registery settings from a previous Windows install using RegEdit and NTUSER.dat

If you want to import the settings from an application you had installed on a previous copy of Windows you probably will have to mess around with the registry. If you are lucky, however, the settings are just saved in a .ini file in the program's directory. Be sure to check for that first. In the case that there is no .ini file, however, here is how you can load the settings without having to boot into your older Windows install first.

Start regedit (winkey+r, "regedit", enter)

Select HKEY_USER registry key. 

From the File menu, select Load Hive (will be grayed out if you don't select HKEY_USER first).

Find your old install's documents and settings folder, navigate to your old user's folder, and then open their NTUSER.dat file (note it's hidden, so you'll have to make sure that explore is set to reveal hidden files).

It will ask you for a key name - choose something unique, because you'll want to do a search and replace later. I used xyztemp

Now click on  HKEY_USER, and then on xyztemp. You now have your old copy of HKEY_CURRENT_USER loaded. Find the program's settings (typically under Software), and export that folder/key to disk.

Supposedly it's a good idea to select the xyztemp key, and select unload hive from the File menu before quiting regedit. 

Next open that exported .reg file with a text editor. Do a search and replace, replacing each instance ofHKEY_USERS\xyztemp  with HKEY_CURRENT_USER (no spaces).

Now save and close the file. Finally, right click on the .reg file, and select Merge. 

What do slashdot readers think is the best low-end laptop OS?

Just a quick update: less than a month after my two posts on the topic of the best OS for low end machines, somebody posted an Ask Slashdot on the same question.  A quick glance thru the comments suggests that Linux is the most popular option, which isn't surprising given the audience. 

The real value of the Ask Slashdot article, however, is that people are suggesting actual Distros.  So far xubuntu doesn't get a lot of hits, suggesting that perhaps I didn't select the very best option for my own head-to-head tests.  If you do decide to install Linux on your low end laptop, you should check it out:

Best free calandar for 2009

You can pay $10 for a colorful calendar for 2009, or 50 cents you can print out your own. I decided to print out my own. I spent ~20 minutes trying to find a good free PDF calendar for 2009 online, but they all featured advertisements, or poor use of page space (ie really large margins, etc). So I made my own. Download my 2009 calendar here.  It's free, has no ads, and makes very good use of the space on the 8.5 by 11 page. No fancy clip-art included, but maybe you prefer that? 

What OS is best for a low-end laptop? Evaluating Win2k on a 800mhz ThinkPad

An 8 year old laptop can still be pretty useful for surfing the web, writing emails and papers, and other sorts of basic tasks. In fact, low-end laptops have become quite the rage with the $350 "NetBook", as personified by machines like the Acer Aspire One, or the Dell Inspiron Mini. But for many of us it's possible to get your hands on a old Low-end machine for much less than $350. And, unlike the Netbooks, you'll get a full-sized keyboard and screen. 

The question this post focuses on is what OS provides the best sort of performance for this kind of low-end machine.

I recently completed a post where I tried installing Xubuntu Linux on a 800mhz Thinkpad with 384MB of RAM. I was impressed with my Linux experience on the whole, but found that bootup and shutdown (as well as hibernate and resume) time was much longer than I would like. Judging from my experience with my Windows desktops, I suspected that an appropriately selected Windows OS would do better. Vista obviously wouldn't, and even XP might be too much, but what about Windows 2000 (Win2k)? Win2k was one of the first really stable Window OSes, and still has good driver support.  Win98 might have lower hardware requirements, but wasn't nearly as stable. I elected, therefore to install Win2k.

Coming fresh from my Xubuntu experience I was surprised at how much more work it was to install Win2k. You always hear about how much pain it is to install Linux, but I think that's largely historical. Today, installing Linux is actually easier than installing Windows - especially older copies of Windows which don't come pre-equipped with all the drivers you'll need, current security updates, or all the good opensource/free software that you'll want, like Firefox and Open Office. Not that it's actually 'hard' to install Windows - all the steps are easy; it's just time consuming to download the right service pack, gather drivers together, and install each one in turn.  With Linux a fully functional install took all of 20 clicks. I'd estimate Windows took more than 10-20 times as many. And with all the rebooting required, I'd guess it took 3-4 times as long to get a fully functioning OS, before I even started installing applications.

Of course you only have to install the OS once (every few years). So what really matters is performance after it's all set up.  

Websurfing was just fine, just as in Linux. Firefox could handle multiple websites at once, with no jumpiness or lag.  Flash was also better, with no more than 1 dropped frame a minute. Also, it was possible to multi-task without making Flash drop audio and video, unlike with Linux. That was almost certainly an issue with Flash being poorly implemented under Linux, as my Linux tests showed that the same machine could play back DVDs just fine. Nonetheless, I'm more likely to use Flash on a machine like this than watch a DVD... 

For doing real work, I tried coldstarting AbiWord and Open Office.  AbiWord started in 5 seconds. Open Office writer started in 33 seconds.  For comparison, AbiWord started 2 seconds faster than under Linux, but Open office actually took 9 seconds longer. Note that I did not have the quick-start program installed under Windows, since that just hides Open-Office start time in the bootup time, and wastes RAM too. As far as I know, no such quick-start program was running under Linux, so it's rather impressive that the same version of Open Office loads quicker under Linux. Not that 24 seconds is really 'quick'. Open office is a real pig, actually.  Note that once started, both AbiWord and Open Office were perfectly snappy, with no typing lag or any problems like that.  With both programs loaded, plus Firefox, I found that performance continued to remain snappy, with switches between applications taking less than 1/2 a second. 

So what about the bootup time, which was so disappointing under Linux? Bootup time from power on to a usable desktop was 110 seconds, only 10 seconds faster than Linux . Clearly, this was still too slow, so I experimented with using Hibernation, where the contents of RAM of an already booted machine is written to disk. Assuming a fast enough disk, it's going to be quicker to load that RAM image back from the disk than going all the way through bootup again. Hibernating to disk took 34 seconds.  Resuming from hibernation took 44 seconds, still longer than I would like, but a significant improvement over Xubunutu, which took 80 seconds!  So, in conclusion, I was right: Windows (2k) is faster to start up than Xubuntu was, though only significantly so when you use hibernation. And Windows is still slower than I would like. 

So, in conclusion, which is better for a low end laptop (as personified by my 800mhz Thinkpad)? Linux/Xubuntu was much easier and quicker to set up, and comes with lots of good opensource software "right out of the box" (fresh off the download?).  Booting, however, was painfully slow, as was Flash performance. On the other hand, Windows took forever to install and setup, but once configured it was fast(er) to boot (or at least, to resume from hibernation). Though I only tested two applications, it does appear that Linux starts applications slightly faster than Windows does, at least with the monolithic Open Office. In retrospect I wish I had benchmarked a few more apps, but I hadn't expected there to be much difference. Oh well, I'm sure somebody else will do it eventually. 

So it's kind of a draw, if you ask me. Other factors, such as what kind of software you want to use probably makes a bigger difference than the differences in performance. I'd go with Windows myself, since I prefer MS Office (esp. Office 2000, which is very fast to load, and lacks all the bloat of Office 2007). But if you prefer Open Office, or other Linux only apps, then clearly Linux wins. It's nice when the choice of what OS to use depends mostly on taste; after all it would be sad if I had to report that Linux fans should use Windows because it's so much faster, or vice-versa. 

Evaluating Linux for a Low-End laptop: my experience with xUbuntu and a 800mhz Thinkpad

If you have an older laptop it makes no sense to run a modern Windows OS on it. Older MS OSes, such as Win2k, or even Win98 run great on machines with less than 1Ghz processors. W98, however, isn't the most stable OS, and neither of those OSes are supported. In this post I examine how well Linux works on older hardware, with an old T21 Thinkpad laptop with an 800Mhz processor and 384MB of RAM.

With Linux the first question is which Distro to install. For regular desktop use, I'd hazard it doesn't matter much anymore: Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, etc: all the big players have pretty good package management, installation routines, etc., and all have more or less the same set of pre-installed software.

Linux, however, has gotten pretty flashy as of late, and a regular desktop Distro is likely to heavily overload an older laptop. There many distros that target older hardware, notably Damn small LinuxVector Linux, and the one I chose: Xbunutu. I pretty much chose at random, guided partly by the high opinions I've heard of the mainstream Ubuntu distribution.

Getting Xubuntu is easy; it's free, and can be downloaded via FTP, or even faster via Bit Torrent. The installation fits on 1 CDR, and also includes both a live mode where you can try out Xubuntu without installing it on your disk. I bypassed the live mode and went straight to installing Linux. Installation was super-easy, in part because there are almost no options to set at all. Xubuntu installs a somewhat minimal set of software, and expects you to add apps as you need them. The add/remove application is very easy to use, and has a search able list of all the applications pre-configured for easy installation under ubuntu. This approach is actually pretty smart: you don't wast a lot of disk space on pre-installed apps you don't even know you have, and will probably never use. Even so, my 20gig hard drive was down to just 15gigs free once the install was finished.

Xubuntu did a great job of detecting my hardware. The video card, the sound card, even the battery were all detected automatically. Since the point of this review is to focus on using Linux on a low-end laptop, however, I'll skip reviewing xubuntu/linux in general, other than to say it's quite slick, full featured, and once you get used to slightly different conventions, easy to use. 

So, how does it perform on my low-end laptop? Pretty well, once it boots up! Web browsing is snappy using Firefox, with windows loading quickly and scrolling without being jumpy or choppy. Flash performance, however, was not so great. Youtube videos would play ok, and were certainly watchable, but you could definitely see frames dropping once in a while, and when multitasking (such as installing open office in the background) the audio would occasionally drop out, and the video would freeze.  This may be due to the poor Flash implementation under linux - watching a DVD was no problem at all, with perfect video and audio, even when full screen.

How about doing real work? Xubuntu installs abiword as the default word processor. It cold-starts in about 7 seconds, and once loaded is perfectly snappy. Abiword is probably equivalent to Word 95 - not the most powerful tool around, but more than enough for most of us. I also installed Open Office, to see how that would perform. Open office writer cold-started in 24 seconds. While that's much slower than for abiword, interestingly it's not that bad. My desktop Athlon 3100+ running Win2k3 takes about 30 seconds to load the same program. Both apps worked great once loaded, with no typing lag, or any other signs of slow-down. I was also able to multitask just fine, with copy of FireFox, Open Office writer, Thunderbird, and the Gimp open at the same time. I don't know how well 384MB would support more apps than that, but with those four I was able to switch between apps with less than 1/2 a second lag. 

The real problem, in my view, is how long it takes to boot up. From pushing the power button to the point where the desktop was fully loaded it took 2 minutes, with only about 5 seconds of that devoted to entering my usename and password.  One way to potentially reduce that is to use hibernation, where the fully loaded OS is written out to disk, so that next time you can skip most of the boot and just read the disk image.  Under xubuntu, however, this isn't much of a time-savings. First, it takes 42 seconds to hibernate the machine to disk, and then it takes 1 min, 20s, to resume from hibernation. Yes, it's faster than doing a fresh boot, and it has the advantage of keeping all of your current applications open, but it's still too slow. 

On a side note, I was a bit disappointed by the stability of the xfce desktop. Upon my 3rd bootup, the menubar (equivalent to a combination of window's taskbar and the MAC's menubar), stopped loading, leaving me wiht just a desktop full of icons. I poked around a bit, but could never find out how to load it again. I'm guessing it somehow got messed up during the application update phase, but I don't really know. 

One other notable advantage to using Linux for a low-end laptop is that a single CD and a couple of clicks gives you a completely functional machine. I didn't have to hunt around for drivers. Mainstream apps, like Firefox were already installed, and programs like Open Office could be installed by just clicking a checkbox. In contrast installing an older MS OS like Win2k would have taken much longer, what with locating drivers, and then having to install additional apps piece by piece. Funny, I wouldn't have thought linux would win that comparison, but that's just a measure of how far Linux installation has come in the last few years.

In the end, however, the slow bootup is a bit of a downer. I'm tempted to install Win2k just to get a comparison. I'm pretty sure it would be faster, but perhaps I'm extrapolating from my experience with more modern machines where Win2k and WinXP boot quite quickly.  In any case, Linux is certainly a reasonable option for a 800Mhz laptop. It may come down to taste in the end - if you like Windows, then use an older Windows OS, but if you want Linux, go for that instead.

Follow-up: After giving Linux a try I decided to do a head-to-head comparison between Linux and Windows 2k on the same machine. 

A nice monospace font for CMD.exe

The default raster font for CMD.exe is pretty familiar - it's the same font used in DOS for the last 20 years. It's possible to use a monotype font which looks a lot nicer. Check out this link for details:

Are you getting the bandwidth you paid for?

Often your broadband provider offers several different deals, depending on what upload and download speed you want. If you just want to read email and look at the occasional website then it hardly maters, but for many of us, the speed of our connection is important (I care a lot, since I often work remotely from home using VNC or MS Remote Desktop, and also run a distributed backup system).

So do you get the speed advertised? Probably not; the question is how much less you get than the maximum speed advertised. Speakeasy speedtest makes it quick and easy to find out, and they print it in both the needlessly inflated bits per second, and the more meaningful kilobytes per second. Very handy!

Editing MSI files to allow installation under Win2k3

Have an .MSI that won't install under Win2k3? It's probably easy to fix. Here's how:

I wanted to install the Firefox WMP plug in from port25 but it turns out that MS decided that this plugin should not support server OSes. Actually, they just decided that the MicroSoft Installation (MSI) file wouldn't support server OSes. Luckily, it's easy to edit MSI files to fix this.

First, you need an MSI editor. Microsoft makes the one you want, called ORCA, but expects you to download it as part of a 300MB SDK. Luckily, it's easy to find online. I got mine from softpedia. Download and install this tool before proceeding.

Next you need the MSI file; Microsoft distributes it inside an EXE, downloadable from the port25 website. To get at the MSI file, double click the EXE, and continue thru the prompts until it tells you that you cannot install the program on a server OS. Before closing the dialog, look in your windows temp folder. There should be an MSI file there. It may be hard to find, as the file's mod date may be from 2007, but if you keep your temp folder clean it should be easy to find (if not, clean out your temp folder, and then run the installer again).

Make a copy of this MSI file, and then right click on it to select Edit with Orca. Now you need to find the rule that prevents the file from being installed. About halfway down the Table list you will find LaunchCondition. Click on this. You will see two rules, and a description of each. Select the rule that is preventing the install, and delete it. Now save the MSI, and then double click on it to restart the installation. Or, if there is only one rule, you can set it to to Privileged, which means that you have to be adminstrator in order to install the program, but it doesn't matter what OS you are using.

And that's all it takes to Install the Windows Media Player Firefox Plugin

Dos Here/Cmd prompt here for Win2k3

If you search for Command prompt here, you get Microsoft's page for WinXP; don't bother downloading this, as it won't install under Win2k3. The solution is a third party version, found here:; but be warned that something funny happened when I installed it - DosHere became my default folder action. It's not clear what caused this, as after I fixed it, reinstalling DosHere did not cause it again. But in any case, here's the fix:

make sure that HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Directory\shell is equal to the string none

see;en-us;321186 if you find this hard to believe. Their page leads me to think this could happen under WinXP as well, though I've installed DosHere on many WinXP machines and never seen this before.

Using Real Rhapsody under Win2k3

Real has a poorly written OS-check that does not detect that Win2k3 is a superset of WinXP; the result is that the in-browser player will not load. The solution is rather easy, however. Just change the user agent:

type about:config in the address bar, and add a new string titled
general.useragent.override; set it to:

Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20080201 Firefox/

The key part here is Windows NT 5.1; this maps onto Windows XP. If you want to correctly report the version of your FireFox browser, you can get the non-overridden version by typing about: in the address bar.

The wrong way to do this is to launch Firefox in Windows XP compatibility mode. This breaks Quicktime.

Another list of programs (in)compatible with Win2k3

I found this rather short list of program compatibility with Win2k3. Short though it may be, it's still much longer than my list :-). I will continue to update my list...

Make your Canon Powershot camera work under Win2k3

Out of the box, the Canon Powershot software is not not compatible with Windows 2003 Server. But with some tweaking, you can make it work.

First, you need to install SSDP and UPnP services for Win2k3.

Next, make sure that the old Canon software is uninstalled.

Then, set the startup.exe install program on your Canon driver CD to load in WindowsXP compatibility mode. Run setup, and install ZoomBrowser ex, and photo stitch. I've found that version 5.8 does not run well under Win2k3, but that 6.x works fine, so at this point you may need to download and install an updater from Canon's website.

After rebooting, plug your camera in. The Canon software may load automatically. I found that I had to first open the Windows Control Panel for Cameras and Scanners and set Camera Window as the default action when my camera was plugged in.

After doing this the Canon software would load when I connected the camera, but clicking on the download images button did not work. A final step that I had to complete was to open the E:\Program Files\Canon\CameraWindow\CameraWindowDVC6 folder, and set all the EXE files to WindowsXP compatibility mode. I'm not sure this is necessary, since I discovered that some of the files had been set into Win2k compatibility mode from when I had been trying other methods to get the CameraWindow software to work. Win2k mode definitely doesn't work.

After those steps the Canon software works flawlessly. I can download pictures just fine, and all the Canon photo tools work just fine. In the MS event viewer tool, I do see the following, rather ugly message a lot, but I've never seen any actual malfunction:

Generate Activation Context failed for c:\Program Files\Canon\ZoomBrowser EX\Program\MFC80U.DLL. Reference error message: The referenced assembly is not installed on your system.

Installing SSDP and UPNP services under Windows 2k3

Windows 2003 Server does not come with either the Universal Plug and Play service or the SSDP Discovery Service. These services are useful for poking holes in your firewall and supporting image downloading from Canon cameras, among other things.

As it turns out, it is possible to install these services under Win2k3, if you have access to a WinXP machine or install CD. See the last post at this link, or in the case that the link dies, follow the instructions below.

Make a file called XtraServices.inf and save it in c:\windows\inf using notepad, with the following text:

signature="$WINDOWS NT$"
[Optional Components]
AddService=upnphost, 0x410,UPNP_upnphost_Svc
AddService=SSDPSRV, 0x410,UPNP_SSDP_svc, UPNP_Evt
11,, upnp.dll, 1
11,, upnphost.dll, 1
11,, upnpcont.exe,,,"/regserver"
24,%lite_path%,%lite_prog%,,,"stop upnphost"
24,%lite_path%,%lite_prog%,,,"stop SSDPSRV"
11,, upnp.dll, 1
11,, upnphost.dll, 1
11,, upnpcont.exe,,,"/unregserver"
StartName="NT AUTHORITY"\LocalService
ServiceBinary=%11%\svchost.exe -k LocalService
AddReg=upnphost.AddReg.Secure, upnphost.AddReg
HKR, Parameters, ServiceDll, 0x20000, "%%SystemRoot%%\System32\upnphost.dll"
HKLM, "Software\Microsoft\UPnP Device Host\HTTP Server", "MaxConnections", 0x00010001, 0x00000050
HKLM, "Software\Microsoft\UPnP Device Host\HTTP Server\VROOTS",,0x0010
HKLM, "Software\Microsoft\UPnP Device Host",,0x10
StartName="NT AUTHORITY"\LocalService
ServiceBinary=%11%\svchost.exe -k LocalService
HKR, Parameters, ServiceDll, 0x20000, "%%SystemRoot%%\System32\ssdpsrv.dll"
KEY_APPPATHS="Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths"
KEY_SVCHOST="Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Svchost"
KEY_LAME="SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PCHealth\Clients\Dialog Comments"
KEY_COMMENT_LINK="Control Panel\Desktop"
UPNP_DESC="Universal Plug and Play"
UPNP_TIP="Support to host Universal Plug and Play devices and to discover UPnP devices on your network."
UPNPHOST_Display="Universal Plug and Play Device Host"
UPNPHOST_Desc="Provides support to host Universal Plug and Play devices."
UPNP_Display="SSDP Discovery Service"
UPNP_Desc="Enables discovery of UPnP devices on your home network."
MsSHARED="Microsoft Shared"
MSInfo32_DESC="System Information"
MSInfo32_INFOTIP="Displays current system information."
SystemTools_GROUP="Accessories\System Tools"
MSINFOPATHL="Microsoft Shared\MSInfo"

Next, make a file called c:\main.inf using notepad, with the following text:

Signature="$Windows NT$"

Now, you'll need the driver files that this will install. If you have an XP SP2 install CD, you are good to go. Otherwise, you can copy them from your current XP SP2 install. The files you need are listed below; in general just search in your windows folder for upnp, ssd, udhisapi, and copy all those files to a USB drive, and then search for cmnicfg, and copy all the files in that directory to the drive as well.


Now, run this: sysocmgr.exe /i:c:\main.inf

Then launch regedit
Find: hklm\software\microsoft\windows nt\currentversion\svchost
Edit: 'LocalService' Key and add upnphost and SSDPSRV, each on their own line, at the end. Include an empty line afterwards.

Reboot, and finally, open up the Services window (run services.msc), and set Universal PnP and SSDP discovery service to automatic.

Desktop programs that do not work under Win2k3

Here's a list of the Desktop programs (games, productivity, multimedia, end-user hardware, etc) that I've found problems running under Windows 2003 server (Win2k3), and my solution, if any. A typical solution is to right click on the EXE file, and tell windows to run it in computability mode, selecting WinXP as the OS to emulate. Most likely this just changes what OS version number Win2k3 reports...

  • 3DMark®2001 SE Free Version - it just won't run, no matter what.
  • Rhapsody music service - change your user-agent.
  • Canon Powershot software (Camera Window) to download photos from your camera. But, there is a workaround.
  • Samsung ML-1710 Series Laser Printer - the GDI drivers installed fine, but when you plug in the printer it reports an unspecified error. It's easy to fix, however; the driver defaulted to the LPT port (ie the parallel port), all you have to do is switch it to the USB port.

Canon camera (SD850is) and Win2k3 do not work together

It would appear that Canon Powershot cameras, at least out of the box, do not support Win2k3 (but see this post).

After installing the drivers and applications for my Canon camera under Windows 2003 Server, I get the following error on each bootup:

The Canon Camera Access Library 8 service depends on the following nonexistent service: SSDPSRV

Using regedit I searched for SSDPSRV, and removed this dependency (see thread that suggested this) so that the Camera Access Library would load, but apparently it really does depend on SSDPSRV. Turning on the camera does load the Windows Image Acquisition manager (after I enabled that service using the services.msc tool), but does not load the Canon tool for downloading images. Nor does it seem possible to manually load the Canon tool by running the CameraWindow application when the camera is plugged in. I tried various "run in compatibility mode" settings, and none of these helped, either.

I also tried installing the TWAIN driver that is used under Win2k to download pictures from the camera, but on the next boot I got this error message:

szAppName : CameraWindowCompDVC6.exe szAppVer :
szModName : CameraWindowCompDVC6.exe szModVer :
offset : 00006ee3

I tried the Get Canon! program, and altho it could detect the camera's presence after I turned on WIA, it cannot "connect to camera". The program's author confirmed that GetCanon supports neither Win2k3, nor Vista.

I also contacted Canon. After some run-around they told me that Windows 2003 is not a supported platform, though, when I asked, they told me I could not post their official reply to this blog. I guess they don't want to own up to the lack of support, since their website doesn't say anything about it either. They also said that they have no plans to support Win2k3. Their suggestion was to use a card reader! Clearly, they are clueless about what's going on, as WIA does work under Win2k3, so you can always download the photos using MS's feature-minimal photo download wizard. Pretty disappointing, Canon.


No thanks to Canon tech support, there is a workaround that allows the Camera Window program to aquire images from your Canon camera.

QuickTime failed to initialize. Error # 0, With Firefox and Win2k3 server

I recently started getting this message in Firefox:

QuickTime failed to initialize. Error # 0
Please make sure QuickTime is properly installed on this computer.

It seems it's caused by launching Firefox in WinXP compatibility mode, which I did in order to be able to use Rhapsody's music service, since they prevent it from running under Win2k3. Yucko. In any case, I searched over the web and nobody else had figured out why Quicktime was crashing this way. Perhaps there are other causes, but this one fixed it for me. I didn't even have to reinstall Quicktime.

Using two Gmail addresses at once

If you want to use two Gmail addresses on one computer (say it is a shared computer) then it can be a pain, since you have to sign out of Gmail whenever you want to switch between addresses. The easiest solution is to use two browsers - one person uses Firefox, and one uses IE, for instance. But what if you both really like Firefox? There's a solution - use two profiles. Here's how you do it:

Make a .BAT file that you put on your desktop or in the start menu:

@echo off
start "" "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -p 2nd

(Note that you may need to revise the 3rd line to refer to the actual location of Firefox).

The first time you double click this file,Mozilla will load the profile manager, at which point you should tell it to create a new profile, called 2nd. Now, quit all copies of Firefox, and start your regular copy of Firefox, and then your second copy from the batch file. Each will have it's own profile, which means it's own bookmarks and cookies. Because the cookies are separate, you can log into Gmail with each browser, at the same time. The only downside to this is that you will use twice the RAM by running two copies of Firefox (potentially a little less, since the EXE image may be shared, but the Cache cannot). On modern computers, losing ~70MB of RAM per instance of FireFox is not a big deal, however.

Note: if you load the 2nd profile first, then starting your regular copy of Firefox will just launch another window using the 2nd profile. You can get around this by modifying your regular Firefox shortcut to say -p default .

graphics and gaming performance for Win2k and Win2k3

How does Win2k3 compare to Win2k in terms of performance? Ignoring the marketing hype, the general rule is that every new OS is a bit slower than the last. But by how much, if any?

In particular, what if you want to run Windows 2003 Server as a workstation OS? How does its performance compare to Windows 2k as a desktop OS?

I ran a few benchmarks, after installing the latest NVIDA drivers for my Abit NF-7, which has an AMD 3100+ XP processor, and a Geforce2 MX400 video card. Since it's a relatively low-end machine the results should be relatively slow, but the important question is how they compare between OSes.

Quake 2 timedemo(1152x864, map demo1.dm2) was 51FPS, for both OSes, showing that there's no difference in OpenGL performance.

I tried to run 3dMark, but it would work under Win2k3, so I had to find an alternative.

I found a small benchmark (video-card-stability-test) , which tested DirectX performance. Here the average frame rate was 9, for both OSes. So it appears 3d performance appears identical.

Finally, I found another benchmark called CrystalMark. At first it seemed to suggest that the performance was bit slower under Win2k3, but it turns out that the numbers it returns are relatively variable, perhaps by 10%, even when run on the same OS twice in a row. So a best this is only evidence that Win2k3 is slightly slower than Win2k.



3DMark®2001 SE Free Version and Win2k3

In my first attempts to benchmark Win2k3, I found out that the old standby, 3dmark 2001, does not run. It says it needs directx 8.1, which it cannot find. Win2k3 has DirectX 9.0c, so clearly there's some sort of bug in 3dMark...

Upgrading Win2k to Win2k3

I've been using Win2k for many years. But these days some of the newer software released does not support Win2k (such as apple QuickTime). So I decided to upgrade to Win2k3 server (that's Windows 2003 server, in case you were wondering). Because I'm a student I can get Win2k3 for free from Microsoft, legally.

I don't really want to use it as a server tho - just as a replacement workstation OS for Win2k. Why not use XP or Vista (hah, Vista). Seriously, why not XP? Well, I built my own PC, and I didn't want to have to pay for a new OS. Since Win2k3 is free, the question is, can it be used as a desktop OS? There's already a website dedicated to this exact topic:

It appears that you can use Win2k3 as a desktop OS, with minimal adjustments to your settings. The above mentioned website is invaluable for that, though at times it suggests changes that are not necessary. For instance: The newest version of DirectX is already installed in Win2k3 SP2, and DirectX is already enabled by default, as is audio acceleration. But on the whole the website makes it very easy to make the conversion.

One question you might have is how hard it is to go back and forth between your new OS and your old OS? Perhaps you'll find that Win2k3 is not to your taste, and you don't want to trash your old OS install. Well, rest assured that like most other MS OSes, Win2k3 knows how to multiboot between OSes just fine. I was able to have Win2k and Win2k3 co-exists on the same computer just fine (though I did install them to separate hard drives).

Free Microsoft software for Students

If you are a student at a major university or college, you can get Visual Studio Professional (2005 or 2008) Windows Server 2003, and some other less interesting software for free from Microsoft. The website is It was relatively painless to sign up. Supposedly you can only install each program once before the CDKEY expires, but once is enough for me. The give-away is clearly meant to encourage CS students to learn and later, recommend Microsoft programs. I happen to really like Visual Studio, so I don't mind the bribe at all.

Email me


Email *

Message *